Police have criticised the "sheer stupidity" of three divers without lifejackets, a radio, cellphones or an anchor who needed rescuing after their inflatable boat drifted out to sea.

Their boat went adrift after its small outboard motor seized while the three Palmerston North men, all in their 40s, were diving off Akitio Beach, south of Dannevirke, yesterday afternoon.

A man onshore saw the boat drifting out to sea and alerted police about 4.30pm.

"It wasn't long before the inflatable craft was out of sight to those onshore," Inspector David White said.


A helicopter and local fishing vessels helped police search for the boat.

It was found by one of the local search vessels about 45 minutes after it was last seen.

Mr White said the three men were on the inflatable boat, which had drifted 5km out to sea.

"Very strong north westerly winds could have carried the inflatable a long way out to sea," Mr White said.

He said people in charge of boats needed to take proper responsibility for themselves and their passengers.

"Sufficient preparation when undertaking boating activities is very important.

"Heading out to sea without any life jackets, safety beacon, a radio, or a cellphone is just sheer stupidity."